Something besides me and Dad sitting on the floor of Jim Murphy's church on Christmas Eve being held at gunpoint by crazy-ass Gordon Walker and some dickhead named Jake.
Something besides Azazel's arm draped casually over Mom's shoulders as they both now stand back in the aisle of the sanctuary; he once again holding her close to his side like he did when he had first called her forth half an hour ago; the muzzle of his gun firmly against Mom's neck.
Something besides three unnervingly quiet, stupidly obedient assholes aiming their guns at the church's double doors, patiently waiting for their target to appear; for Sam to appear.
I swallow at the fresh realization of what their plan is – to literally gun down my little brother as soon as Sammy comes through those doors.
And while that scares the shit out of me, it's not my primary concern right now.
Because something else is wrong.
I've always had a sixth sense when it comes to Sam.
And right now, that sixth sense is going fucking crazy.
Because while I could hear Sam talking a few minutes ago – quiet and unclear, but definitely talking – now I hear nothing.
And his shadow has also moved away from the door.
So that means...what?
I narrow my eyes and then close them; lack of sight instantly sharpening my other senses.
And that's when I hear it.
Just beyond the door, like maybe Sam is further down the steps now; a strangled gasp, quick and barely perceptible...but most definitely there.
My eyes snap open in instant recognition.
Because I've heard that sound from my brother before.
I heard it earlier today while I was sprawled with him in the middle of a crowded sidewalk this afternoon; me holding on to Sam just as desperately as Sam was holding on to me.
I definitely know that sound.
And I know what it means.
"Shit," I hiss under my breath and can feel Dad glance at me.
I shake my head, because this is beyond description.
Dad knows that Sam has migraines, and he knows that Sam had a bad one this afternoon.
But Dad wasn't there.
Dad didn't see how Sam had just collapsed in a heap on that sidewalk; how the kid had totally checked out from this reality for several minutes and how disoriented Sam had been when he had finally come back; how Sam had blinked at me and had slurred my name.
Dad knows that Sam is usually tired after a migraine, but he doesn't know how I had physically supported the kid all the way back to the Impala and then had done the same to get him into our apartment.
I feel my heart beat faster as more silence fills the air, and I'm struck with a momentary flash of panic.
Because what if Sam has collapsed like he did earlier this afternoon – and I wasn't there to catch him – so he fell down the church steps?
What if Sam is bleeding and unconscious on the other side of those doors?
What if he broke something when he fell or – god forbid – hit his head?
I shift restlessly from where I'm sitting on the floor, unsure of how much longer I'll be able to control myself from going to check on my brother.
"Don't fucking move," Gordon warns me, jabbing his gun – really my gun – in the back of my head for emphasis.
Mom makes a startled sound in the same instant anger flashes in Dad's eyes.
And if I didn't have other things to worry about right now – like Sam and my parents, like all of us getting out of here alive – I would kick Gordon's fucking ass for doing that.
And Gordon knows it, too.
I can feel him staring at me from behind, waiting for some kind of reaction.
But I don't give him one.
Because timing is everything.
And it's not time to handle Gordon Walker.
I clench my jaw, reminding myself that Gordon's turn is coming; sooner than he even knows.
I guaran-fuckin'-tee it.
But first, I have to make sure Sam is okay; and that if he is okay, he stays okay.
Because while I'm a damn good FBI agent, that's not my job.
Keeping Sammy safe is my job; my primary responsibility since the first day I found out I was going to be a big brother.
Take care of Sam. Watch out for Sam.
That's been my mantra for the past 28 years, and I sure as hell am not fucking it up tonight.
As long as I'm around, nothing bad is going to happen to that kid.
I sigh, glancing at Dad and then blinking as I realize that Dad now suspects something is wrong outside, too. I can see it in his narrowed eyes and in the way he's tilting his head toward the door but staring at me.
I nod – the movement so slight that I doubt anyone else saw it – and confirm Dad's suspicions.
Dad glances at the door and then back at me, frowning and silently asking me so much more than I can answer with just body language and facial expressions.
I hold his gaze but shake my head.
Dad's frown deepens.
"What the fuck is taking so long?" Gordon demands, turning to look over his shoulder at Azazel.
Azazel quirks a smile, clearly amused by Gordon's frustration. "Patience, grasshopper."
Gordon scowls. "Fuck you, Azazel," he returns. "This shit's not a game to me."
"Me, neither," Dad adds, saying what I'm thinking as he continues to sit across from me on the green-carpeted floor; the soles of our boots almost touching as our legs stretch out in front of us. "Azazel – "
"Shut the fuck up, old man," Jake snaps before Dad can say anymore and does to Dad as Gordon did to me earlier, jabbing his gun – Dad's gun – in the back of Dad's head.
Mom makes the same startled sound as she did before when I was on the receiving end of that rough gesture, and I hear Azazel chuckle.
Dad's jaw clenches, and I know it's taking all of his self-control not to react – yet.
"Easy, Jake," Azazel advises and chuckles again; then glances at Dad. "You were saying, John..."
But Mom speaks before Dad even opens his mouth.
"Don't hurt him," she begs, staring straight at Azazel; their faces mere inches apart.
And even though Mom doesn't clarify which "him" she's referring to, I know she's not talking about me or Dad; she's talking about Sam.
"Please," Mom continues desperately. "Please don't hurt him."
Azazel tilts his head. "Now, Mary..." he says, his tone mockingly placating. "You know that's not how this deal works."
Mom shakes her head. "What deal?"
Azazel arches an eyebrow. "You don't remember?"
Dad glances at me.
I shrug, just as confused as he is.
"What the hell are you talking about, Azazel?" Dad snaps; his hands braced against the floor as though he's about to stand.
Azazel glances at Dad and then back at Mom.
"Nothing," Azazel finally replies.
But the way he says it – and the way he looks at Mom when he says it – makes my stomach twist.
"Another time, another place..." Azazel comments to himself, and I swear this guy couldn't get any creepier if he tried.
Mom glances at me, looking as confused and unnerved as I feel, and then glances at Dad.
Dad stares back at her, his eyes narrowed; clearly trying to figure out just what the hell is going on, what Azazel is talking about.
There's more silence.
I sigh and turn my attention back to the church's double doors, hearing a dog bark somewhere down the street and being reminded of BJ; unexpectedly wondering if Gordon killed him, too; if our dog is dead alongside Cas somewhere back at Mom and Dad's house.
The thought makes me freshly pissed.
Because on my list of things people shouldn't fuck with, "family" and "dog" are in the top five.
I sigh again and continue to stare at the church's doors.
But there's still no sign of Sam; no familiar voice filtering through the massive slabs of oak and no ridiculously long shadow slipping beneath the doors' crack.
Gordon sighs harshly behind me, and I can tell that he's staring at the doors, too. "Where the fuck is he?"
"Maybe he knows something's up," Jake answers from behind Dad, also staring at the doors and looking more anxious by the second. "Maybe he fucking knows, and we're the ones fucking screwed."
"How would he know?" Gordon challenges.
"Sounds like paranoid bullshit to me," Gordon declares.
And although I hate to side with Gordon, I'm inclined to agree.
Because while Jake's paranoid bullshit is a nice thought – that Sam somehow knows our situation in here and is rallying the proverbial troops to come rescue us – I know that's not the reason Sam hasn't come through those doors yet.
I wish it was.
But Sam's most likely...
"He does know," Azazel suddenly informs us, and Dad and I look at each other before looking at him.
"What?" Mom asks, also looking at Azazel.
Azazel smiles. "Sam knows. He just doesn't know he knows. Not yet. But he'll know soon enough that he knows. That he's known all this time..."
Mom shakes her head. "That makes no sense."
"Makes perfect sense," Azazel corrects. "If you know what I know..."
"Thank you, Riddler," I quip before I can stop myself, because Jesus...sometimes I think Azazel talks just to hear the sound of his own voice.
Azazel chuckles and then looks at Mom. "Tell you what..."
Dad and I exchange glances. This should be interesting.
"I'm feeling generous, it being Christmas and all..." Azazel tells Mom, his arm still draped over her shoulders; the muzzle of his gun still pressed against her neck. "So what if instead of killing or even wounding your darling little Sammy, I spare him?"
I see a spark of hope flash in Mom's eyes even though she says nothing.
Azazel nods, because apparently he saw it, too. "That's right," he assures her. "Sam goes right on living and breathing. All you have to do is – "
"No," Dad interrupts, glaring heatedly at Azazel.
Azazel arches an eyebrow. "No?" he repeats, shifting his attention to Dad. "Why, John...are you saying you prefer your Sammy choking on his own blood?"
My jaw clenches at that – because no fucking way in hell is that happening.
Dad's eyes narrow even more. "I'm saying generosity with strings is not generosity – it's a deal."
Azazel shrugs. "Fine," he concedes easily and then looks back at Mom, knowing she's still listening to him. "Care to make one, Mary?"
"No," Dad growls again and is about to say more when he's interrupted – by Sam's voice.
A flood of emotion swells in my chest – concern, relief, dread – and I'm instantly refocused on the church's doors, turning my head so fast I'm momentarily dizzy.
I listen intently; my ears feeling like they're literally straining in their effort to hear Sam say something again.
But he doesn't.
Instead, his shadow suddenly appears underneath the doors; his dark silhouette slipping through the bottom crack and stretching across the green carpet until it's almost touching mine and Dad's outstretched legs.
And in that moment, I feel strangely sad.
Because Sam is literally so close – he's right there – and yet so far away.
And I know we're not going to be able to stop this.
I glance at Dad, seeing the same realization reflected back at me, and then look at Mom.
Mom's gaze flickers between me and Dad, wide-eyed and panicked.
I swallow, feeling my heart pound in my chest as my body practically vibrates with a rush of adrenaline combined with that familiar feeling I always get whenever Sam is threatened; a feeling that I will fucking kill anything or anyone that tries to hurt that kid.
Because while Sam is a strong, capable adult; he's also my little brother.
And whether Sam likes it or not, part of me will always view him that way...especially when I know he's vulnerable, as he's sure to be when he walks into this church. Not just because of the ambush waiting for him, but because of what I know he's suffered through over the past few minutes.
I sigh and look back at the doors, remembering the migraine Sam endured earlier this afternoon and somehow knowing the one that just literally put him on his ass on those steps outside was even worse.
I narrow my eyes at the floor, noticing how Sam's shadow seems to slightly shake, which means Sam is shaking; which means my little brother is a mess – a sweaty, pale, exhausted, nauseous, can-hardly-see-straight-from-the-intense-lingering-pain mess.
I sigh again, freshly worried and pissed at this entire situation.
Because in his current condition, Sam's ability to focus and react is going to be shitty at best and nonexistent at worst, meaning his chances of getting hit by a flying bullet just doubled, if not tripled.
I clench my jaw against the surge of frustration and anger just as Jake seems to notice what I've known – and Mom and Dad have known – for the past two minutes.
"He's back," Jake needlessly reports.
"I can see that," Azazel comments, looking at Sam's shadow on the floor and his tone implying he knows Sam never really left.
Azazel glances at Gordon, Jake, and the others.
"Remember the plan," he instructs. "I know you're eager, as am I. But remember to wait..."
All five of them nod their understanding.
And just like that, the entire feel of the room changes.
I look at Dad, both of us wondering what the fuck that means...just what they're supposed to wait for – which means we have to wait for – and how that will affect our plan.
Are we listening for a word...watching for a nod...a wink, a blink...what?
Sam's shadow once again moves on the floor.
The other three gunmen – the ever-present silent observers in all of this –take a step forward, readjusting their stance and their aim at the church's doors.
I watch Jake track Sam's movement underneath the doors' crack and then shift behind Dad in anticipation for whatever is about to happen.
I feel Gordon do likewise behind me; both preparing to launch themselves at Sam as soon as my brother opens one of those doors.
"Oh my god..." Mom whispers, as though her words are weighed down with fear and dread as she shifts anxiously beside Azazel.
Because this is it.
I glance at Dad, both of us staring at each other – because we can't risk nodding, not now – and confirming that we understand our general plan; he takes Jake, then Azazel while I take Gordon...and then we both handle the other three.
"Don't hurt him," Mom desperately begs Azazel again, and her voice trembles with threatening tears. "Please, please...don't hurt him."
Azazel shakes his head sadly even as he smiles at her. "Too late."
"No..." Mom pleads, frantically looking between the door and Azazel. "No. Please. Please, don't hurt him. Don't hurt him. Don't hurt him. Don't – "
"Shhh..." Azazel's arm wraps further around Mom's shoulders as he slides his hand over her mouth, attempting to silence her but only muffling her words.
Mom squirms in his grasp becoming more and more frantic as Jake and Gordon both fully turn toward the door.
"Nooooo!" Mom yells, not because I can hear the actual word around Azazel's hand but because I know that panicked, pleading inflection.
"It's all going to be okay, Mary," Azazel calmly assures her, leaning his head against hers and slowly rubbing the muzzle of his gun up and down Mom's neck in a threatening gesture that he undoubtedly thinks is soothing.
Mom attempts to jerk away, but Azazel's grip is too tight.
Azazel barely blinks, completely unfazed by Mom's escalating hysterics. "It'll all be over soon," he continues to soothe her in an oddly calm voice; gun stroking her neck as he begins to hum.
And although I'm completely focused on the church's double doors, I can't help but hear – and recognize – the tune.
...it's a cold and it's a broken hallelujah.
I glance over my shoulder as Azazel takes a breath and then resumes his humming.
I glance at Mom, something twisting in my chest when I realize she's no longer struggling within Azazel's hold but is just standing there beside him, resigned and defeated; her eyes closed, squeezed tight against what she doesn't want to see; silent tears slipping through her lashes and down her cheeks.
I turn back to face the church's double doors; wondering which one Sam will enter as I brace my hands on either side of myself in order to jump to my feet the instant Sam appears, and I can see Dad preparing for the same.
In the background, Azazel continues his soft, maniacal humming.
But I still hear the click of the latch the second Sam pushes against the door – the right door.
And then time seems to stand still.
The moment feels both frozen and amplified – Sam's movement abnormally slow, sounds abnormally loud – as the church door swings wide, and Sam comes clearly into view.
But he doesn't see us.
Sam's body is still turned toward the street as he looks back at his car – a practical, fuel-efficient Honda; holding his keys out in front of him while he pushes one of the buttons on the keychain remote, making sure he locked the doors.
As the horn honks once to confirm the car's security, Sam pockets his keys in his jeans and then turns to face us.
But he stops mid-stride when he's greeted with the scene in the sanctuary.
The door closes behind Sam while his pained, squinted expression quickly changes to startled, then confused as he tries to make sense of what he's seeing – me and Dad on the floor; Gordon, Jake, and three others pointing guns at him; and Azazel standing in the middle of the aisle with Mom at gunpoint.
There's silence – even Azazel has finally stopped humming – and I feel myself holding my breath...because now what?
I expected Sam to walk into a hail of bullets; and yet there's complete silence and absolute stillness as he stares at us...and we all stare right back at him.
I hear Sam swallow as his eyes dart to me, questioning and instantly afraid for what all of this means.
I hold Sam's gaze, offering what comfort I can as he stands motionless in front of those massive church doors, and then give him a visual once-over; because as I expected, the kid looks like shit.
Sam is pale, and his damp bangs are sticking to his forehead. His brown hooded jacket is unzipped – despite what I know must be freezing temperatures outside by now – and I feel an extra measure of concern when I see he's changed clothes since I last saw him and is now wearing his grey Stanford hoodie; a classic sign of Sammy feeling like crap.
And now, after having endured yet another migraine a few minutes ago – because I know that's what happened on those steps – the kid is undoubtedly feeling even crappier
As if to confirm it, Sam winces; closing his eyes and rubbing the heel of his hand across his forehead and down his temple before ignoring Dad and even the guns pointed in his direction and looking back at me.
Dad shifts beside me, and I watch as Sam reluctantly breaks eye contact with me and looks at him; then at Gordon and Jake and the others; his analytical mind trying to sort and connect, to figure out just what the hell is going on here.
Sam's gaze finally rests on Azazel and Mom standing behind us, and I can tell that out of all the pieces to this puzzle, this one confuses him the most.
Because the last time Sam talked with Mom, she was heading home; and the last time Sam saw Azazel, he was walking out of jail.
"Hi, Sam," Azazel calls, sounding genuinely happy to see my brother. "Surprise!"
And although I expect more talking, more taunting, more psychological foreplay, apparently that was what we were all waiting for...that word...like we're at a fucking birthday party.
Because in the next instant, the sanctuary explodes with movement and sound.
I shout a warning at Sam – I don't even remember what I say – and then I'm pushing to my feet and turning, plowing into Gordon behind me.
Gordon's eyes widen as he realizes what I'm doing. "What the fu – "
I hear the breath rush out of him as we fall back, and his head cracks against the floor.
Dazed, Gordon drops his gun – my gun – and I grab it and ram my knee into his Kevlar-padded chest, appreciating the opportunity to finally release some of my aggression...and also thankful that although there's a lot of guns being fired, there's not a lot of bullets hitting their marks.
Because as I suspected, these guys can't aim worth shit.
I smile to myself and then slam the butt of my gun over Gordon's head, making sure he's unconscious before pushing off the floor again.
I'll finish him later.
Right now, all I can think about is Sam.
I turn to find my brother.
But in my periphery, I see that Dad is now on his feet, too – having done to Jake what I did to Gordon – and has his gun back and is already moving toward the front of the sanctuary.
Dad fires a shot and drops one of the nameless three gunmen in his approach to Azazel.
I feel a brief wave of accomplishment – three down, three to go – but it's short-lived as I turn to face the church's doors.
Because what the fuck is Sam doing?
"Sam!" I shout at him. "Down!"
Sam blinks and looks at me.
But instead of dropping – like he's supposed to – Sam shakes his head and continues to struggle with something in his coat pocket.
I growl my frustration – because seriously...what the fuck is he doing? – and begin moving in Sam's direction, intending to bodily put my little brother on his ass to wait this out.
And then after this is over and we're all safe, I'm going to have a serious fucking talk with him about doing as he's fucking told.
But as I'm moving, I hear Sam yell my name and then point behind me.
I turn to my right, just in time to see a groggy but freshly pissed Gordon back on his feet and raising another gun toward me; the gun he had before he had taken mine earlier.
I snort as Gordon advances in my direction.
"No fucking way," I tell him in response to his obvious plan to shoot me, and then I do what I've been planning to do for the past hour – kill his crazy ass.
An expression of shock crosses Gordon's face as he realizes what's about to happen, and he fires a shot at me half a second after I've already fired mine.
Gordon's aim goes wide – his bullet whizzing past me – as he rocks back from the impact of my bullet between his eyes.
I hear Mom's muffled scream as Gordon hits the floor, and behind me, Sam gasps.
I nod in agreement, thinking Sam is just as relieved as I am; because even though I wasn't scared of Gordon getting his shot off first, that was still too damn close.
I stare down at Gordon's body sprawled in the church aisle and think that I should probably be disturbed by how much pleasure I just got from killing another man.
But I'm not.
I couldn't give a fuck if I tried.
Because Gordon had this coming...for betraying us, for what he did to Mom and Cas and me...and for what he had planned to do to Sam.
I sigh and glance to the front of the sanctuary where Azazel continues to hold Mom in front of him – blocking any kind of clear shot – as he points his gun underneath Mom's jaw and backs down the church's aisle, approaching the altar with Dad steadily advancing toward him.
Although I can't hear their words, Dad and Azazel are saying something to each other, and Mom is wide-eyed as she continues to look past me.
Azazel's arm is still wrapped around Mom's shoulders and over her mouth, and both her hands are gripping his arm; supporting herself as she's dragged backwards down the aisle; her gaze suddenly, desperately focusing on me and then on Dad.
Dad's gun is raised, his head tilted like he does when he's 100% focused; and I wonder if Azazel knows how close he is to joining Gordon in hell.
The thought makes me ridiculously happy...like beer and anime.
My mouth twitches in a smile, and I'm about to turn back to Sam when I see it – a renewed expression of absolute horror cross Mom's face as she looks past me again.
And even before I turn around to look, I know I'm too late.
In the next second, something icy hot slices across my left side, and I fall back, hearing Mom scream as I do; because apparently she saw.
"Shit!" I hiss, lying beside Gordon in the aisle and realizing I'm hit.
I'm fucking hit.
I clench my jaw – because being shot hurts and burns just as much as I remember – and hear Dad yell my name.
I raise my arm, surprised by how much effort that takes, and give him the sign that I'm okay; hit, in pain, and pissed...but okay.
"Dean!" Dad yells again.
And that's when I realize that Dad hasn't looked back to check on me; that he's keeping Azazel in his sights.
"Yeah," is all I respond, but I know that's enough; that Dad will know I'm okay.
I just hope Sam is okay, too.
Because as I'm quickly coming down from the high caused by killing Gordon and returning to the reality of this fucked-up situation, I've suddenly realized my little brother has been strangely quiet; hasn't said a word since he yelled my name in warning a few seconds ago in response to Gordon.
A wave of panic washes over me at the realization; at the memory of Gordon's wide shot, Mom's scream, and Sam's gasp; of me assuming Mom and Sam were just reacting to me killing Gordon...when maybe they were both reacting to Sam being fucking shot.
The thought – the very real possibility – is paralyzing.
My heart slams in my chest, and I feel my increased blood pressure causing my side to bleed even more freely than before.
But I don't care.
Only one thing – one person – matters.
And I should've been paying better attention to him.
"Sam..." I call, though not as loudly as I wanted.
Still...if Sam was able, he would have heard me; would've answered.
But there's no answer.
I swallow, feeling so panicked I can barely breathe.
"Sam..." I call again, trying to sit up; only to fall back when blinding pain ignites in my side.
I squeeze my eyes shut.
"Shit..." I hiss and force my eyes open; breathing deeply and willing myself to get a grip so I can try again.
But before I can do anything, boot-clad feet suddenly appear within inches from my face.
I startle and then strain to sit up; to see which asshole fucking shot me.
But the guy – one of the three nameless gunmen – squats to my level, looking down at me with what seems to be genuine concern and remorse.
"I'm sorry," he tells me and actually puts his hand on my shoulder. "I only do what Azazel tells me."
And I wonder if he thinks that explanation somehow excuses what he's done; somehow saves him from me taking him out the same way I did Gordon.
Because if he does think that, he's wrong – dead wrong.
As soon as I get my hands back on my gun...
I quickly glance around the immediate area, wondering where the hell my gun is; how far it went when I fell and lost my grip.
The guy continues to stare at me and sighs. "Listen...just stay down."
And for whatever reason, those last three words seem to echo.
In fact, when he says them, it's like he has some kind of power over me; because although I still want to sit up, to find Sam...I literally can't.
Just stay down.
The guy nods – he knows what he's doing – and then stands, moving down the aisle toward the church's altar, where I last saw Mom and Dad and Azazel.
"Fuck!" I growl from overwhelming pain and frustration and from feeling so fucking useless.
I squirm on the floor despite the agony in my injured side; still unable to sit up but trying desperately to get a better angle to see Sam; my view blocked by all the high-backed pews.
I feel blood freely flowing from my wound, saturating my shirt and the waist of my jeans as I struggle forward; green carpet soft under my hands as I crawl toward the church's doors, to where I last saw Sam.
Hoping, praying that Sam is not down; that Sam is not shot.
Behind me, I hear Mom's muffled cries, and when I turn to look over my shoulder – grunting from the white hot pain the twisted movement causes to flare in my left side – I see that the same dickhead who shot me is now approaching Dad.
"Stay still," he orders Dad.
And those two words seem to have the same effect on Dad as "just stay down" had on me; it's like Dad literally can't move even though he obviously wants to.
What the fuck?
What kind of new-age, hippie mind control mojo shit is this?
In the next instant, the guy is within inches of Dad; easily unarming him and then cracking the butt of his own gun across Dad's temple.
Dad drops, and Mom finally snatches her face away from Azazel's hand and screams Dad's name; once again struggling in Azazel's grasp as he continues to hold her against himself; her back against his chest.
Azazel smiles. "Well done, Andy."
Andy nods his appreciation of the praise and then leans down to hit Dad with his gun twice more...hard.
Mom makes a guttural sound of rage while reaching behind herself, clawing at Azazel's face.
"Easy, wildcat," Azazel chuckles – holding Mom at arm's length – and then glances at Andy.
Andy nods again, seeming to understand the silent order, and steps forward, taking Mom from Azazel.
Mom glares as Andy approaches and strikes out at him, too; but stops as soon as Andy tells her to...just one word spoken from his lips – stop – and that's that.
Mom is motionless, whether she wants to be or not.
"That's better," Azazel praises as Mom quiets in Andy's grasp, obviously still wanting to kick their asses but unable to.
And seriously...what the fuck is going on?
Azazel smiles, checks his gun, and then turns his attention toward the church's doors.
"Okay, Sam..." he calls, walking up the aisle. "Your turn."
And although my heart is about to beat out of my chest, I remain absolutely still on the floor, waiting for Azazel to walk past me.
It doesn't take long.
As soon as I see his shadow loom over me, I prepare to grab his ankle, and he goes down.
"I don't fucking think so," I growl at Azazel in response to his threat to my brother; still uncertain what they've already done to Sam – because I still can't fucking see him – but determined not to let anything else happen to the kid.
Azazel chuckles, totally unfazed by finding himself face down on the floor, and looks over his shoulder at me.
I glare back, keeping my face neutral even as pain radiates throughout my entire body.
Grabbing his gun, Azazel pushes to his feet and stares down at me; his gaze flickering to my hand now covering my left side as blood seeps through my fingers.
"Nice try, Dean," he praises and then shakes his head, clearly pleased with himself and the situation. "But you're too late. You couldn't save yourself or your dad. You won't save your mom. And you sure as hell won't save Sam."
Azazel barely finishes speaking before his boot lands hard in my wounded side, flipping me over to land on my back.
My breath is instantly gone; stolen away by the worst fucking pain I've ever felt in my life.
"No!" Mom yells hysterically from the front of the sanctuary, and I wonder what she's seeing behind me; what they're doing to my brother...or probably more accurately, what they're about to do.
Mom calls my name, then Sam's before Andy covers her mouth, telling her to be quiet...which instantly shuts her up.
Azazel chuckles, and I'm vaguely aware of him turning away; turning back toward the church's doors, back to where I know Sam is.
And as it has so many other times throughout my life, my responsibility to Sam – to protect him and keep him safe no matter what – rallies strength I didn't even know I had.
Because before I know it, my breath is back and I'm slowly rolling over, preparing to crawl toward the church's doors.
"What the fuck happened?" Azazel demands as he approaches Jake and that other guy, sounding as pissed as I feel.
No one answers.
I continue to crawl, unnoticed; wishing I could find my gun – hell, anybody's gun – scattered between one of these pews...but so far, nothing.
"What the fuck happened?" Azazel repeats, overly enunciating each word.
Jake clears his throat. "The Winchesters – "
"Shut the fuck up, Jake," Azazel snaps, clearly not interested in hearing the excuse of us.
I smile faintly; because as long as I can stay conscious, this Winchester ain't done yet.
Azazel snorts. "Un...fucking...believable," he comments, and I can picture him shaking his head disgustedly. "Phase One of my plan goes to absolute shit because you dumbasses let a couple of Feds get the jump on you, and now we end up with this fucking mess!"
And while I agree that we're all in a fucking mess, I feel a margin of satisfaction that Azazel's plan – at least "Phase One" of it – did not go as he wanted; that we managed to wreak our own havoc in only a few short minutes.
Gordon dead...that guy Dad shot also dead.
That leaves Azazel...Jake...Andy...and whoever that other guy is.
I continue to crawl forward – almost there – and wonder how the hell we're going to take out four more armed men; especially since it's less "we" and more "me" right now.
"Well..." Azazel sighs, his tone a little lighter, and I vaguely wonder if he's bipolar; his drastic mood swings would certainly support that theory.
"Well...what?" an unfamiliar voice asks hesitantly, and I know it must be the pasty, odd-looking kid; that third nameless gunman.
"What's done is done," Azazel comments philosophically. "Gordon was an arrogant asshole, and I didn't even know that other guy's name."
"Scott," Jake supplies, naming the guy Dad shot as though anybody cares.
"Whatever," Azazel dismisses.
"Max..." Azazel calls, and since I haven't heard that name yet, I'm assuming he's talking to that pasty kid. "Go up front with Andy and Momma Winchester, just in case Papa Winchester wakes up before he's supposed to."
"Yes, sir," Max responds.
And as soon as I hear him move, I stop crawling; lying motionless on the floor.
Totally oblivious – not realizing that I'm now closer to the back of the sanctuary than I was when Azazel kicked me a few minutes ago – Max steps over me and continues down the aisle.
What a dumbass.
"Get him up," is the next thing I hear Azazel say, and I know he's talking to Jake about Sam.
I swallow and lift myself back up as I continue to crawl forward, not allowing myself to think about the implications of Azazel's order; that Sam is down, that Sam is probably shot, that Sam could be dead.
But then I hear Sam grunt, followed by sounds of sluggish, uncoordinated movement that would imply that maybe the kid is getting up by himself; too slow for my liking and obviously in pain, judging by the hitches in his breathing – but by himself.
I'm more than halfway up the aisle by now; fully aware of the blood running down my side, down my leg, and leaving a trail on the carpet...but I smile.
Because that's my boy.
There's more silence.
"Well, well...look at you," Azazel praises and then chuckles. "I always knew you were stronger than you looked, Sammy."
"It's 'Sam'," my little brother corrects; his voice shaking from a combination of anger, pain, and shock.
"Fine," Azazel concedes. "Sam..." He pauses. "Do you know what happens next?"
Sam doesn't answer.
I keep crawling, within inches away now.
"I think you do," Azazel states confidently, still talking about Sam knowing what's going to happen next; like Sam knows the future.
...which is complete bullshit and just further proof that Azazel is fucking crazy.
Sam says nothing but inhales a shuddering breath – almost choking when he swallows in the middle of it – and I wonder how badly he's injured; if my little brother isn't talking because he doesn't want to...or because he can't; because his lungs are filling up with blood or something equally horrifying.
"You've seen what happens next," Azazel muses, sounding strangely proud and excited. "You've seen it more than once. You just aren't quite sure how it happens."
And the way he says that makes my stomach twist, makes me instantly worried about how what happens...
There's more silence as I finally, finally reach my goal; as I'm able to finally see Azazel and Jake and Sam standing in front of the church's double doors even as I'm still partially hidden behind one of the rear pews.
My eyes immediately go to Sam, still surprised – but proud as hell – that he's conscious; that he's obviously been wounded and is a little shocky, but is on his feet under his own power.
I silently sigh my momentary – yet overwhelming – relief at seeing my brother alive and then immediately give Sam a once-over; seeing a dark stain on the shoulder of his brown coat and knowing it's blood; knowing the kid has indeed been shot, most likely by Gordon's rogue bullet.
The visual confirmation causes a fresh wave of panic to wash over me, especially since Sam is barely on his feet; is only still standing because he's too damn stubborn – too damn Winchester – to show weakness.
I shake my head, proud but worried.
If there's any comfort in all of this, it's that Sam is shot in his shoulder, and shoulder wounds are usually not that bad. It sucks that he's shot on his right side – his dominant side – but not by a bullet that was even intended for him; so that means maybe this just looks worse than it actually is. Maybe once we're all safe and at the hospital, the wound won't be bad at all.
But still...Sam is shot.
And he was shot on my watch; or rather, while I was not watching; while my back was turned.
And that's inexcusable.
I shake my head, freshly pissed with myself for my negligence and more determined than ever to get myself and my family out of this church alive.
Azazel shifts from one foot to the other, still staring at Sam. "Want to know how it happens?" he asks my brother.
And I glance at the gun still gripped in Azazel's hand, hanging loosely by his side; immensely comforted by the fact that he's not aiming it at Sam while asking that question.
But still...this routine is getting old, and I wonder how long Azazel is going to harp on this "what happens next" topic; how long he's going to talk about it and freak us out about it until he just shows us.
"However you think it's going to happen...you're wrong," Azazel patiently explains to Sam and then glances at Jake.
Jake nods once as he continues to stand behind my brother; a silent conversation passing between him and Azazel.
An uneasy feeling begins to gnaw within me, and I clench my jaw against it – and against the burning, excruciating ache in my injured side – while glancing around myself...because I'm so fucking desperate for a gun right now.
But I see nothing.
I shake my head.
Figures that I've spent my entire life surrounded by weapons, and now when I need one the absolute most...there's none to be found.
"Are you listening, Sam?" Azazel asks, tilting his head.
And I see why he would ask that – because Sam is looking about as crappy as I feel; pale and sweaty and sluggishly blinking even as his legs are visibly shaking.
Azazel frowns. "Sam..."
Sam's only response is to wince and sway on his feet.
And from my angle on the floor behind this pew, I can't tell if it's from the pain and dizziness of Sam's throbbing head, courtesy of the migraines...or from the agony of being shot and from the lightheadedness of blood loss, both courtesy of Gordon's bullet.
Either way, I don't like it.
Azazel glances at Jake again before looking back at Sam, and Jake instantly steps forward and grasps Sam's injured arm roughly; presumably responding to an order to keep Sam steady and on his feet.
Sam hisses in pain and scowls, weakly trying to pull away.
Jake's expression hardens just as his grip noticeably tightens.
Sam swallows and reluctantly stills, holding Jake's gaze defiantly.
Azazel chuckles. "I like your spunk, Sam. Always have..."
Sam looks back at Azazel.
Azazel sighs. "Where were we?" he asks and then pauses. "Ah, yes...when it happens..."
Azazel nods to himself and then he starts explaining to Sam again, still talking about whatever is happening next.
"When it happens, Sam...you won't even see it coming. Will he, Jake?"
My attention flickers to Jake as Jake smiles, and I can see Jake's arm – the one not holding onto Sam – moving behind my brother; Jake's elbow moving up like he's lifting something.
I narrow my eyes, immediately suspicious and scared as hell.
I try to push up, but my arms won't support my weight; just stay down a whispery, unwelcomed echo in my head.
Sam squints, looking confused and exhausted and not-quite-with-it.
Azazel smiles and then glances over his shoulder, looking straight at me like he's known I was there all this time; like part of this "show" was for me.
I watch as Sam clumsily tracks Azazel's gaze, and I can tell from the way my brother slightly startles when he sees me that the kid didn't realize I was even here.
...which means Sam is in worse shape than I thought.
Maybe "just a shoulder wound" isn't just a shoulder wound after all.
"Dean..." Azazel calls, attracting my attention.
I look at him.
And then, just like that...it happens.
My only warning is Jake's arm moving swiftly back and then thrusting forward just as quickly.
And even before Sam gasps, even before his eyes squeeze shut in reaction to indescribable pain, even before he goes rigid and then alarmingly limp...I know.
Jake just fucking stabbed my brother in the back.
"Sam!" I yell, frantically crawling forward, as if I think I'll catch Sam when he falls; because Sam is obviously going down.
But before he can, Sam slams back into the door as if somebody has picked him up, thrown him against it, and is momentarily holding him there.
Sam gasps again on impact and then coughs, seeming to choke on the sharp breath.
...that is, until I realize Sam's lips are splattered with flecks of red; that Sam isn't choking on air.
He's choking on his own fucking blood.
Just like Azazel warned Dad earlier.
"No!" I scream, refusing to believe the implications of what I'm seeing; because as signs go...this is really fucking bad. "Sammy!"
Sam weakly moves his head and coughs again. "D'n..."
And my heart stutters to a fleeting stop at the expression on Sam's face as he responds to my voice; as he looks in my direction, as his eyes try to find me; unfocused and vacant...as if in that fraction of a second, Sam's already gone...just that quick.
"No!" I scream again, because this is not happening.
This is not fucking happening.
But it is.
In the next instant, Sam slides slowly down to sit on the floor, leaving a streak of red to mark his trail down the right church door before slumping completely over on his side.
I stare at Sam as he now lies motionless on the floor; feeling too stunned to move.
"Guess you win," Azazel tells Jake.
"Guess so," Jake agrees, sounding oddly detached as he wipes the bloody blade against his sleeve.
I blink out of my daze and again start crawling across the floor toward Sam. "Sammy!"
Azazel turns toward me and shakes his head, as though he's dealing with a stupid child. "I've already told you, Dean. You can't save him."
"Like hell I won't!" I growl, ignoring the tearing pain in my side as I continue to drag myself closer to Sam.
Azazel chuckles and takes a step toward me. "You won't," he tells me again.
And those words – coupled with the toe of Azazel's boot coming toward my face – is the last thing I remember before the world goes dark.
I considered splitting this chapter since it's over 8,000 words...but I just couldn't! Hope you enjoyed, and I hope to start chapter 10 over the weekend.